All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mega Republican Post

More Antics from the Right

Or is it Reich? Either way.

Republican Ex-Rep Turns Terror Lobbyist?
For what it's worth, the Feds are accusing another Islamic charity of being a front for terror groups to launder money. A lot of these accusations are petty hand-wringing -- if you donate money to the legally elected government of, say, Palestine, then you're aiding terrorists, because that happens to be Hamas; similarly, if you give money to the only competent government, and legal participant in the Lebanese parliament, Hezbollah, you're supporting terrorists.

On the other hand, if you give Israel money to buy a giant caterpillar bulldozer that they use to run innocent people over as they demolish Palestinian housing, why, that's charity.

*rolls eyes*
At any rate, this case sounds like it might have a bit more meat, since the money was supposedly being laundered to Iraq through Jordan, not to one of those legitimate governments I mentioned before, as well as to some religious nut in Pakistan. This sounds more credible.

The really interesting bit though is that they hired as a lobbyist, to try and get themselves off the terror list, and hence their assets unfrozen, a former Republican congressman.... and paid him with stolen money meant to aid needy people in the third world as well.

Siljander founded the Washington-area consulting group Global Strategies Inc. after leaving the government.

The indictment says Siljander was hired by IARA in March 2004 to lobby the Senate Finance Committee in an effort to remove the charity from the panel's list of suspected terror fundraisers.

For his work, IARA paid Siljander with money that was part of U.S. government funding awarded to the charity years earlier for relief work it promised to perform in Africa, the indictment says. Under the grant agreement, IARA was supposed to return any unused funds after the relief project was wrapped up in 1999.

Instead, Siljander and three IARA officers agreed to cover up the money's origins and use it on the lobbying effort, the indictment charges.
Oops. Needless to say, the right wing media is going to work very studiously at looking the other way at this (former?) Republican's current legal situation. Ignoring Republican legal problems is a very well honed skill for them by this point.

Source: Raw Story

Count 9/11 Strikes Again
Rudy Giuliani has just released an ad claiming that he, and he alone, didn't wet himself in fear when the WTC went down in flames.
Rudy Giuliani's new ad, running in the West Palm Beach area, uses actual video footage from 9/11 to promote Rudy's candidacy -- and includes this surprising line about the terror attacks:

"When the world wavered, and history hesitated, Rudy never did."
I'll say he didn't; he was too busy plotting how to ghoulishly profit from the carnage and death he was complicit in causing through his ineptitude and focus on banging his mistress rather than building a functional emergency command system for the city.

It takes a lot of work to be this big a sleaze.

Source: TPM Election Central

South Carolina Primary Again Ugly for McCain
In 2000, a group tied to Bush ran a push-poll in South Carolina suggesting McCain had an illegitimate black child, in order to derail his campaign (which worked beautifully, FYI). This time around, someone is distributing flyers accusing him of being a collaborator with his North Vietnamese captors in the Vietnam War
This is ugly even by South Carolina standards: John McCain is being targeted by a nasty flyer that lampoons McCain's POW captivity in Vietnam. The flyer, which was sent to local newspaper editors, depicts a manacled McCain in a cell with the phrase "POW for President," and "elect me" scrawled on the walls, suggesting that McCain is trying to ride his POW status into the White House.

The mailer also accuses McCain of collaborating with his captors and betraying his fellow POWs.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the South is not really part of America. They have never earned the privilege they forfeited in the Civil War.

Source: TPM Election Central

White Power Huckster Hour
So it turns out that Huckabee gave a speech to one of the most infamous White Supremacist groups in the South (and that's really saying something):
Making coded appeals to white racism is nothing new for Huckabee. Indeed, well before he was a nationally known political star, Huckabee nurtured a relationship with America's largest white supremacist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens. The extent of Huckabee's interaction with the racist group is unclear, but this much is known: he accepted an invitation to speak at the group's annual conference in 1993 and ultimately delivered a videotaped address that was "extremely well received by the audience."

Descended from the White Citizens Councils that battled integration in the Jim Crow South, including at Arkansas' Little Rock High School, the Council (or CofCC) has been designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In its "Statement of Principles," the CofCC declares, "We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."
Charming, I know.

Cooking squirrels is one thing, but I guess living in the same dorm with a darkie would have been too much, eh, Huckabee?

Source: Raw Story

Ron Paul Speaks at Bob Jones U
This should help further cement his white power street cred -- a speaking gig at pro-segregation, anti-miscegenation Bob Jones U!
Why Paul, who said just a month ago that fascism will come to this country wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross, and who is still mired in a major controversy with his newsletters containing racist garbage he claims he didn't write, would make a stop at a fundamentalist madrasah that didn't open its doors to students of all races until 1975, and banned interracial dating and marriage all the way through 2000 (after George W. Bush appeared there), is beyond comprehension.
Well, that's an easy mystery to solve: he's a race-baiting hypocrite, and the more attention he gets, the more moolah he rakes in. Duh.

Interestingly, Bob Jones won't be publicly endorsing him, because the university leadership already has another horse in the race:
Ken Herman at the Austin American-Statesman writes that he got an earlier press release from the Paul camp that said, curiously, "It should also subtly be conveyed that Dr. Ron Paul will be the only Presidential Candidate to speak at Bob Jones University (although this fact does not translate into an endorsement in any way, shape, or form)." That's probably so because Bob Jones U.'s president previously endorsed Mitt Romney, who (despite what the Paul release says) had already made a stop at the college.

The choice of Romney is odd as well, since BJU has a history of hostility towards Mormons. A former BJU president said in 2000 that Mormonism, along with Catholicism, are "cults which call themselves Christian."
So really, the hypocrisy more than goes around, on the Republican side of the aisle.

Source: Jazz From Hell

Great History of Jonah Goldberg
So Jonah, aka Doughy Pantload, makes the specious argument that the real racists, evildoers, even FASCISTS in America come from the left side of the aisle, especially those eeevil progressives. Republicans/Conservatives are free of all sin, and in fact have always been racially neutral, believing in the purity of the market-based meritocracy.

Jonah writes, if you can call it that, for the National Review, an infamous right-wing screed. Sadly, No! has called him out on being part of a magazine with such a colorful racist history while he lambasts progressive historical figures for not being as PC as he might like:
Okay, so Jonah, a contributing editor of National Review, fer chrissakes, is throwing an accusation of racism against progressives and the left. That doesn’t just take the cake, it takes the fucking cake platter, the table under the cake platter, the whole fucking dining room, the house too, and the block on which the house is located, and the city, state, nation, planet, galaxy and universe. At its inception, the whole point of the National Review, the magazine that pays for Jonah’s triple bacon cheeseburgers, was the virulent racism of William F. Buckley and his cohorts, all of whom spilled truckloads of ink over the virtues of segregation.

If you don’t believe me, let’s take on instructive trip down memory lane and read stuff that was printed in the National Review in its halcyon days. Here’s what NR had to say about the Birmingham church bombings after they occurred:

Let us gently say the fiend who set off the bomb does not have the sympathy of the white population in the South; in fact, he set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically as to raise the question whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur — of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro.

And let it be said that the convulsions that go on, and are bound to continue, have resulted from revolutionary assaults on the status quo, and a contempt for the law, which are traceable to the Supreme Court’s manifest contempt for the settled traditions of Constitutional practice. Certainly it now appears that Birmingham’s Negroes will never be content so long as the white population is free to be free.
It only goes downhill from there. Way, way downhill.

Source: Sadly, No!

CIA Agrees with Bush Ally on Bhutto Death
Big surprise, the CIA has come down on the side of Musharraf, despite copious evidence of his indifference to, if not active compliance in, Benazir Bhutto's death... including her disturbing letter from beyond the grave laying blame at his feet for cutting her security detail.

Of course, the CIA has now dedicated itself to the quest to find the 'real killers'. And who do they blame? Why, Al-Queda, of course!
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA believes extremists associated with a Pakistani tribal leader are responsible for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, according to a U.S. intelligence official.

The official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the agency concluded that Baitullah Mehsud -- the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who has ties to al Qaeda -- was behind the attack.
This is really starting to get sad. Al-Queda might as well be blamed for making kids wet the bed, ice cream melt too fast, and apple pies to burn if left in the oven too long. At this point, we're just a few screens shy of having the Two Minutes Hate.


FEMA FEMA FEMA Chameleon...
So after gutting FEMA and merging it with the equally useless Department of Homeland Security, Bush has been forced to restore most of its power by angry state governments.

About time.
After years of aggressive lobbying by unhappy state governments, the administration chose to restore FEMA's power to coordinate federal disaster operations. That power was undermined in the administration's previous plan -- used just once, after Katrina -- when the secretary of homeland security appointed his own officer to oversee disaster response.

Under the new plan, the head of FEMA will appoint the top coordinating officer, clarifying responsibility and, according to the states, ending confusion that caused critical delays. Congress ordered that change to the plan last year.
Ahh, it's nice to get an early start on fixing the gaping holes in government that the Republicans created. Still so much to do, though.

Source: The Washington Post

Pure As the Driven Snow
I know technically General Tommy Franks supposedly isn't considered a big time Republican (despite endorsing GW Bush in 2004), but he went along with the Rumsfeldian/Neoconservative plan to conquer the World/liberate Iraq eagerly enough, despite it being a fool's errand from any sane person's perspective.

Turns out his opportunism doesn't end there.
"Retired U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, was paid $100,000 to endorse a veterans charity that watchdog groups say is ripping off donors and wounded veterans by using only a small portion of the money raised for veterans services, according to testimony in Congress today," ABC News reports.

The article continues, "Gen. Franks' involvement was revealed as members of Congress questioned Roger Chapin, who operates Help Hospitalized Veterans and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation, charities that congressional investigators say spend only 25 percent of the money they raise on projects for wounded veterans."

"General Franks was paid $100,000 to lend his name. We understand he developed misgivings and asked that his name be taken off," Congressman Henry Waxman, D- Calif. said.
Of course, it's easy to develop misgivings when the check's been cashed and the donor in question is under Congressional investigation.

Source: Raw Story
Wikipedia on Tommy Franks

The Infamy of Republican Rule
We're here at last; where even our most stalwart allies are forced to admit that yes, under El Presidente, the United States is a nation of torturers.
OTTAWA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - An official Canadian government document has put both the United States and Israel on a watch list of countries where prisoners run the risk of being tortured, CTV television reported on Thursday.

The revelation is likely to embarrass the minority Conservative government, which is a staunch U.S. ally.

The document mentions the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where a Canadian man is being held.

CTV said the document was part of a course on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats to help them determine whether prisoners they visited abroad had been mistreated.

It said the document mentioned U.S. interrogation techniques such as "forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation."
God Bless America.

Source: Reuters

(Adding, I like the headline category -- latestCrisis. It seems like we bounce from one to the next and back again under this administration, does it not?)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Science Update

Clearing Some Tabs

Hilarious News
A Creationist museum is going under financially, due in part to some legal dispute over acquiring a perfectly good dinosaur skeleton so they could claim it was on the Ark or some nonsense. Now they're being forced to auction off their stuff to avoid complete insolvency, and the prize of their collection, a gorgeous Mastodon skull, is on the block.



Seems Like Someone Should Organize These Archives
So the Library of Congress recently found 3 new photos of Lincoln's second Inaugural, which previously had something in the neighborhood of one photograph on record. I guess from the CNN labeling, the photographic glass plates were mislabeled and so lost to history until now.

They're not particularly interesting visually, but still, more history being discovered in the back room of a museum. First a giant rat, now some glass negatives. Will wonders never cease?


Another Nidoking Story
So some researchers at Rice University have made the blackest substance yet, a material that absorbs 99.9 something percent of visible light. This beats the old record used as the 'official' black by the National Standards people by three times, apparently.

It is composed of carbon nano-tubes, tiny tubes of tightly rolled carbon that are 400 hundred times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair. The carbon helps absorb some of the light.

These tubes are standing on end, much like a patch of grass. This arrangement traps light in the tiny gaps between the "blades."

The researchers have also made the surface of this carbon nano-tube carpet irregular and rough to cut down on reflectivity.

"Such a nano-tube array not only reflects light weakly, but also absorbs light strongly," said Shawn-Yu Lin, a professor of physics at Rensselaer, who helped make the substance.

Source: Reuters
H/T to Nidoking

Nobel Prize Means Nothing to High School
So one of the climate scientists from the UN panel that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore last year was scheduled to speak at a Montana high school, when the idiot school board pressured the principal to bring in an opposing view, because they thought that Global Warming as a theory is 'anti-agriculture'.

Ahem. Fuck you, you fucking nitwit farmer fucks.

So the principal canceled the event of a nobel laureate rather than find some moron to debate him. Which is better than giving the flat earth crowd another dog and pony show I suppose.

Americans just want to be ignorant, that's the only conclusion I can reach.

Source: Raw Story

Sums It Up Nicely


Confirmation of the worthless state of the human race.

So I've checked with the roommate, and thoroughly checked the van, and come to the conclusion that, yes, someone stole my ancient cd player.

Even worse, looking through my cd collection, the disc that's missing is the first half of the Dethalbum Limited Edition, which was very hard to find the first time around.

Man this sucks. I'm trying not to let it get me down, but geez.

I Hate People So Much

So I went out to get taco bell tonight and wanted to listen to something on my cd player.

It wasn't there.

I had noticed that the cassette adapter wasn't plugged in earlier today, but didn't think anything of it. Now I looked through the car more thoroughly... it's gone.

I have no idea why they took the ten year old cd player except that by being plugged into an adapter maybe they thought it was of value.

This makes me sick. It was undoubtedly one of the useless morons who live in this rotten neighborhood, or their drunken friends who come every Saturday night, ten cars deep, for a raging party. That, or the worthless teenage slut next door looking for a little petty revenge. God knows she likes her music.

That CD player had enormous sentimental value to me, and now it looks like it's gone forever. If it doesn't by some chance turn up I'm going to be completely heartbroken. That thing got me through a miserable, lonely high school, it's served me so well for a decade, through college, road trips, you name it, taking constant beating without complaint. And now some asshole has probably swiped it thinking it must be worth something if it's plugged in. They left all the cds, but took the player.

I hate people so much.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Random Science Blogging

Science is Awesome

Giant Rodent Mania!!

So scientists going through a Uruguayan museum's fossil collection have discovered the skull of a truly enormous rodent.

Eeek! Imagine a rodent that weighed a ton and was as big as a bull. Uruguayan scientists say they have uncovered fossil evidence of the biggest species of rodent ever found, one that scurried across wooded areas of South America about 4 million years ago, when the continent was not connected to North America.

A herbivore, the beast may have been a contemporary, and possibly prey, of saber-toothed cats — a prehistoric version of Tom and Jerry.

For those afraid of rodents, forget hopping on a chair. Its huge skull, more than 20 inches long, suggested a beast more than eight feet long and weighing between 1,700 and 3,000 pounds.
As I said to a friend: nothing that weighs a ton can really be said to 'scurry'. Stomp, sure. But scurry?

Source: Raw Story

Messenger Madness!
From the Wikipedia article on the MESSENGER probe that NASA has on route to Mercury, a picture of the previously never seen side of Mercury.

Science is so nifty.

Source: Wikipedia

Republican Update

Listen up, I never knew I'd ever be so sad...

I've been touched in places by very scary hands.

Unconventional Conventionists
So after three states (plus tiny Wyoming that nobody cares about), the Republican field has three front-runners, of sorts. Romney, the empty suit, that nobody loves; McCain, the 'outsider' that the press adores and the corporate plutocrats AND religious right hate; and Huckabee, who probably just wants to get into the oval office to steal the desk, if his performance as Governor in Arkansas is any indication.

Republicans are now facing the very real prospect that they will have no clear winner going into the national convention and will have to duke it out to pick an unpopular candidate with no base of support to run against the Democrat, who already has the advantages in demographics, fundraising, and political momentum, since they don't share a party with the least popular President since Nixon (and who may well poll below Nixon by the time the election is held).

Congressional Republicans are/were particularly desperate for an early nominee to rally around as the Anti-Bush, since their own prospects are falling like a feather in a vacuum (ha, physics reference) the longer the Idiot in Chief stays at the top of the news cycle. Now, facing this ugly convention prospect, they're making a pathetic attempt at backpeddle and spin from their earlier desperate hope.. which leads us to one of the best quotes I've seen in months.

On Wednesday, several Republican officials said a protracted primary season might add excitement to a party that typically settles on a nominee early.

That's not the tune they were humming last summer, however, when they began worrying about potential losses at the congressional and state levels. When a likely GOP nominee emerges by early February or so, Republicans will "not have the Bush monkey on our back," Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., said at the time.
The Bush monkey. A Republican said this. Hahahaha....

Ahh, the sweet smell of Republican disaster in the morning. Smells like... victory.

Source: Raw Story

What the Huck?
So Huckabee's amusing stories of bizarre hillbilly antics continue. Now he's rabbiting on about how, in college, he got around the usual no cooking in dorm room rules by using a popcorn popper.... to fry squirrels.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your eyes are fine.
"Mika, I bet you never did this," Huckabee went on, addressing Mika Brzezinski. "When I was in college, we used to take a popcorn popper, because that was the only thing they would let us use in the dorm, and we would fry squirrels in a popcorn popper in the dorm room."
Jed Clampett is running for President.

Source: Raw Story

Well, I Know They Fill ME With Contempt
House Democrats under semi-spineless Pelosi look to finally be moving on contempt charges against White House officials who don't think they have to comply with silly things like subpoenas, as opposed to the rest of us mere mortals. Republicans are outraged that the law might be applied against, well, Republican lawbreakers. Could we please just start slapping the cuffs on already? That's the only way you get organized crime figures to talk, whether it's the Mafia or the GOP.

Source: Raw Story

Orwellian Scumbags
You might think, given the wave of economic populism and hard times for the middle class, that Republicans in Congress would dial back their obvious greed and lust for big corporate interests, but you'd be so totally, completely wrong.
Today, Rep. Eric Cantor (VA), the chief deputy Republican whip in the House, unveiled his proposal to stimulate the economy. His legislation — the so-called Middle Class Job Protection Act — does nothing for the middle class. Instead, it reduces the corporate tax rate by 25 percent.

At a press conference today unveiling the stimulus proposal, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) justified the conservative plan to give tax breaks to corporations — instead of working Americans — by arguing that people actually like working long hours:

I am so proud to be from the state of Minnesota. We’re the workingest state in the country, and the reason why we are, we have more people that are working longer hours, we have people that are working two jobs.

Bachmann’s version of the American Dream is apparently working two full-time jobs and struggling to get by.
Of course, as the article notes later, we shouldn't give Bachmann too much credit for this original interpretation of the American dream. El Presidente's already taught us the value of hard work, which I believe he learned about from his servants:
Bachmann may be taking her cues from her bosom buddy President Bush, who on Feb. 4, 2005, told a divorced mother of three: “You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that.”
Yes. It's Fantastic that someone has to work three jobs to survive, isn't it?

Ron Paulitis
Polling in Nevada suggests that Ron Paul has no chance of coming in at any decent position, but the AP has a line on Republican insiders desperately fearing that Ron Paul might actually win Nevada, making it a FOUR way race of losers in the Republican field. Ron Paul, whackjob extraordinaire, is the only Republican to actually show up and campaign in Nevada; all the others fear the strange, unionized Western Sodom too much to bother.


Source: Firedoglake

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thanks Loads, Ethanol Pushers

Enjoy eating? Get ready to pay through the nose!

So the price of food continues to soar, thanks in no small part to the ravening maw that is ethanol production. Our enormous energy subsidy to the corn growing belt is having the (possibly) unintended consequence of creating corn shortages, driving the price of consumer goods and especially meat and dairy through the roof.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Almost a third of the U.S. grain crop next year may be diverted from the family dinner table to the family car as fuel, putting upward pressure on food prices, a leading expert warned on Tuesday.

Grain prices are near record levels as the United States produces more ethanol, now made mostly from corn, to blend with gasoline and stretch available motor fuel supplies.

Farmers, hoping to cash in, are expected to grow 30 percent of next year's grain crop for ethanol use as more refineries that process corn into fuel come online, according to Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and long-time critic of using food grains for fuel.
Thirty percent. Thirty percent of our corn is being thrown away just so people can drive inefficient flex-fuel SUVs. Speaking of:
Brown said that an SUV with a 25-gallon tank filling up with ethanol would use enough grain, about 560 pounds (254 kg), to feed the average person for one year.
What a rate of return!

Meanwhile, at the supermarket, things only get worse for Americans already feeling the impact of Bush's terrible economic policies:
The falling value of the U.S. dollar is contributing to a rise in food prices, particularly with imported foods such as fruit from Spain. A gallon of whole milk that sold for $2.78 in January 2000 costs around $3.95 today.

Eggs were 97 cents at the dawn of the new millennium. Now they're $2.49 a dozen.

Fresh whole chicken prices jumped from $1.05 to $1.49 a pound in the same time frame.

"A lot of that is attributed to the declining dollar," said P.J. DiNuzzo, president of DiNuzzo Investment Advisors Inc. in Beaver, Pa. "The weaker currency is having an effect all across the board, all the way to food prices."
So he's ruined the dollar, crippled our food supply, and driven the price of basic sustenance into the stratosphere. But this is Bush we're talking about here! Surely he can make a bad situation even worse, perhaps with the help of a compliant Democratic Congress?
Also, the new federal energy bill calling for a sevenfold increase in ethanol production to meet clean air standards and reduce dependence on imported petroleum may be having the unintended consequence of causing shortages of corn - which is used in ethanol production - in turn driving up the prices of a wide array of food products derived from corn.

By 2012, the U.S. goal is to produce 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol a year, meaning U.S. annual corn production must rise 22 percent from about 10.9 billion bushels to 13.5 billion bushels to meet the demand.

Corn prices are at their highest level since the drought of 1995, jumping from around $2.18 per bushel in 2002 to $4.78 per bushel this week.
Ahh, that's more like it. Just one more point to hit and we'll have all the highlights: can we injure our international relations and/or devastate the global poor with this policy? Survey says yes!
Beyond U.S. borders, the sharp rise corn prices recently led Mexicans to demonstrate in the streets of their capital over the skyrocketing price of corn tortilla, a staple of their diet.
Finally, although it's hard to find a good article on this, it's being noted that the rise in food prices and decline in supplies is having an impact on food banks:
Additionally, the demand on farmers to replace food and feed crops with crops for ethanol manufacturing has impacted surplus food supplies and food costs dramatically.
Once again, I tip my hat to greedy ethanol producers and the farm lobby. You've managed to screw the environment, the poor, the American consumer, all in one fell stroke.

Sources: Gleaner's Food Bank

The Toledo Blade


More Random News

Let me show you.. much I care.

Polite Society Means Not Discussing Politics At Dinner
Even if you're the President, it seems.

President Bush followed up a mild lecture about expanding democracy among the Mideast's comfortable dynasties with an opulent picnic at the desert playground of one of the region's wealthy leaders.

Bush traded his suit for a casual jacket and took a helicopter as close as he could get to this remote encampment where Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, raises horses and prize falcons.


Bush has avoided any direct criticism of human rights or political freedoms in the governments hosting him in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Arab world, although U.S. allies surely knew who he meant when he decried the treatment of opposition political candidates and dissidents in the region.
Yeah, he meant 'Those people that you can round up and shoot for all I care, so long as there's seconds on that tasty lamb.'

Source: Raw Story

Drug Resistance Spreads
While Bush dines at his rich oil patrons' expense, we have some rather serious emerging problems here at home that a less anti-science administration might be tempted to deal with.

First, a new, tougher and quite nastily contagious strain of MRSA, or Multiply Resistant Staphyloococcus, has emerged, centered on the gay community in San Francisco. So expect to hear a lot more of that special right-wing gay bashing rhetoric we get with regard to AIDS (you know, the 'gay plague' stuff).

Source: BBC News

Meanwhile, a much more dangerous and agressive form of an Adenovirus, the wimpy little common cold bugs, has broken out, hitting the military community amongst others. It causes a nasty form of pnuemonia, and has led to a few deaths already. Since adenoviruses are normally so non-threatening, there really isn't anything medicine can do to treat it if it gets out of hand. We're not talking Captain Trips here, of course... but, you know, two serious disease outbreaks might prompt attention from a slightly more competent government. Instead, we have Bush trying to appoint a rabidly anti-gay minister as the Surgeon General. So it goes.


The War on Terror Never Comes Home
So we're committed to fighting terrorists, world-wide, whenever they rear their ugly heads, right El Presidente?

Unless of course, they're Cuban terrorists plotting to overthrow Castro.
Tristam Korten and Kirk Nielsen, writing for, profile a group of Cuban exiles who are believed to have plotted attacks against Cuba and continue to operate in Florida with virtual impunity.

"[O]ther than an occasional federal gun charge, nothing much seems to happen to most of these would-be revolutionaries. They are allowed to train nearly unimpeded despite making explicit plans to violate the 70-year-old U.S. Neutrality Act and overthrow a sovereign country's government," they write.

"In Greater Miami, home to the majority of the nation's 1.5 million Cuban-Americans, the presence of what could credibly be described as a terrorist training camp has become an accepted norm during the half-century of the anti-Castro Cuban diaspora, Alpha 66 and numerous other paramilitary groups -- Comandos F4, Brigade 2506, Accion Cubana -- are so common they've taken on the benign patina of Rotary Clubs with weapons."
Ahh, Miami. What a cesspit.

The article also brings up the long-running outrage that is the U.S. giving sanctuary to an anti-Castro terrorist by the name of Posada Carriles, who is wanted for a series of hotel bombings and the downing of a plane in 1976 that killed 76 people. He's also implicated in an assassination attempt in Panama, and was tied up with our gun running in Central America during Iran-Contra. He recently fled into this country to avoid prosecution, and the Americans fudged Venezuela's extradition request so that he can stay here, indefinitely. He won't even be prosecuted for that pesky illegal immigration.

Border fence? Only for the dirty Mexicans, not bloodthirsty bombers.

Source: Raw Story (from a Salon article)

Thin is In
So Apple has a new laptop in the works that is about three quarters of an inch thick at the thickest point. It's absurdly slim, weighs 3 lbs, and costs about 2 grand.

Think of it as the extremely high-priced cousin of the EEE PC from Asus, or, alternately, the laptop so thin you have to worry about breaking it in half all day long.

Either or.

Source: Macworld

Ahh Fox, Is There Any Corporation Not Your Master?
Except for GE of course, because they let that mean old Olbermann on the air.

This time it's Fox Noise berating John Edwards, Nurses, and humanity in general for being too hard on Cigna, who denied a woman the liver transplant she needed and her doctors wanted, until of course, she died.

I'd wonder how they sleep at night, but I suspect they don't get much rest, as they're all on day-leave from Hell.

Source: Raw Story

Random News Update

Oh I'm ready for it...

Come on bring it!

Sense of Humor Missing in China
So the French carmaker Citroen made an advertisement poking gentle fun at the bloodthirsty lunatic despot Mao for the Chinese market. This produced neither the expected chuckles of amusement, nor perhaps the embarassment at being reminded that the founder of their current government was howl-at-the-moon crazy.

No, there's a wave of anger that people poked fun at the mass murderer. Wha?

Citroen apologised for the "inappropriate" ad, which Chinese chatroom users had complained "hurts our national pride".

"This is no small thing," said one visitor to a chatroom about the ad - based on the famous portrait of Mao which hangs in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

"It has an influence on the whole country. It damages the whole Chinese people."


Nearly 32 years after his death, Chairman Mao remains revered by some Chinese, despite his promotion of policies such as "Great Leap Forward" which ended in the deaths of millions, and the profound social and economic changes China has since seen.
I'm trying to think of a witty comment here, but it's coming up blank.

Source: BBC News

Into the Void
Both the void of space, and the void of space science left by NASA throwing all its budget at pointless moon missions, thanks to El President. The ESA announced its mission slate for 2008, and it's so nerdy and hard-science focused that it's scary. Amongst other highlights are a pair of telescopes for Big Bang studying, Herschel and Plank, that will study the Big Bang's cosmic aftereffects in great detail in the infrared and microwave backgrounds, respectively. Plank is crucial for evaluating the Great Void mentioned in an earlier post, that the Great Old Ones most likely are using to invade and destroy our world.

Well, perhaps not. But the void part is true; it'll help figure out exactly why there's a giant hole in space, and that'd be good to know. The ESA is also going to send up the core science module for the rather showboaty International Space Station, so that it can finally, perhaps, start to earn its keep.

Check out just how nerdy these guys are though:
In May, GOCE, a satellite billed as "the Ferrari of micro-gravity fields," is scheduled to be taken aloft from ESA's space base in Kourou, French Guiana, with the goal of monitoring ocean circulation -- a key factor in the climate-change question.
The Ferrari of micro-gravity fields. Yeah. Honestly guys, I appreciate the hard work, but you might want to take a break... go outside once in a while... it can be nice out there.

Source: Raw Story

In Which I Disagree with the ACLU
I know, I know; Hell has frozen over. But the ACLU is defending foot tapping pervert Larry Craig in court, arguing that, at least under Minnesota law, there's a right to privacy in having sex in closed public restroom stalls.


See, here's my problem with that. Closed door, open door, it's still not THAT private. But worst of all, Craig had no idea who he was trying to solicit an H-J from when he did his little tap routine... so if he gets away with it on this excuse, you can never use the toilet outside your own home in peace again.
The ACLU also noted that Craig was originally charged with interference with privacy, which it said was an admission by the state that people in the bathroom stall expect privacy.
Precisely so! He violated both public order and privacy at the same time! He's a Republican, which means he's extra good at lawbreaking!

Seriously, ACLU, there's no noble principle to defend here. Our socio-political discourse does not require turning mens' rooms into brothels for Republican senators.

Source: Raw Story

Popey Go Home
So the new Pope (Motto: Ratlike Nazi Apologist Makes Not Quite Good) has annoyed the scientific community so badly with an old speech stating that Galileo received a 'fair trial' that he's been forced to withdraw from a public appearance at Italy's largest university, after a teacher's revolt on the subject and angry student campaign.

Why don't you just do us all a favor, Benedict, and stay home where you can play with your pretty dresses and Prada shoes. Nobody out here likes you much.

Source: The Guardian

Religious Nuts
Speaking of reactionary, backward religious figures, we have the Seventh Day Adventists and some strict Jewish factions complaining about the Democratic Nevada caucus being held on a Saturday.

If it was held on a Sunday, of course, Christians would complain; a weekday and turnout goes way down. The religious groups want absentee ballots so they can observe their 'stay at home and do nothing useful' rituals. Riiight. If you're so dedicated to your sky-wizard that you think it's a grave sin to, you know, participate in the democratic process, I'm not sure we need you. Scratch that; I think we're better off without your input.

Generally I'm in favor of absentee ballots, but this is just getting a little ridiculous. We shouldn't have to schedule EVERYTHING around religious demands in this damn country.

Source: Raw Story

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Artificial Heart, Artificial War, Artificial News

Science Run Amok
Well, perhaps not AMOK

Scientists have for the first time created a beating heart from stem cells.

Seriously. They made a beating heart in a dish.

This obviously represents a big step forward toward custom-made, rejection free organ transplants. The scenario being, you need an organ, they take some of your own stem cells and grow it for you, then replace the old one. Considering the shortage of organs today and the terrible side effects of rejection, and the drugs that control it, having your own tissue to transplant into the body would be enormously advantageous.

Not an easy task, but a lot closer now. Great job guys.

Of course, if people like Bush have their way, we will never see medicine or science derived from stem cell work like this. After all, if some zygote somewhere dies, it's the world's greatest tragedy and we must all weep and mourn for a thousand years. Won't someone please think of the snowflake babies?

Sigh. Anyway...
Source: The Times Online

Ham Radio + Jackass == World War III
Remember the 'threatening' behavior the Iranian navy supposedly displayed toward our ships in the Strait of Hormuz? Complete with supervillainish threats?

It turns out that the threatening voice on the radio may well have been a prank call.

Threatening comments heard at the end of a Pentagon-released audio recording designed to prove harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a local heckler known as the "Filipino Monkey," The Navy Times reported.


The Times said Friday the voice in the audio sounded different from the one belonging to an Iranian officer shown speaking to the cruiser Port Royal over a radio from a small boat in the video released by Iranian authorities.

That is why several Navy experts interviewed by The Times are raising the possibility that a heckler known in the region as the "Filipino Monkey," or an imitator, could be behind the threats.

"Filipino Monkey," who is likely more than one person, listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net shouting insults and vile epithets, the report said.

US Navy women who are overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment, the paper said.
So not only was the voice not credible, but they've been suffering these pranks for some time now and are well aware of their non-governmental origin... yet they were willing to let the Bush administration push for war with Iran, based on the jerk behavior of some loser with nothing better to do than harass passing ships over the airwaves.

I'll never understand why the military of this country does so much to cover for a man who does so little for them in return.

Source: Raw Story

Strikefest 2008
So the grueling battle over future media revenue streams seems to have killed the last half of this year's tv lineup, and now next year's batch of inanity is about to die stillborn as well.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Four major studios have canceled dozens of writers' contracts in a possible concession that the current television season cannot be saved, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The move means the two-month old writers strike may also endanger next season's new shows, the Times said.

January is usually the beginning of pilot season, when networks order new scripted shows. But the strike leaves networks without a pool of comedy and drama scripts from which to choose.
At this rate, Americans might actually have to read something to pass the time. Truly it is the end of the world as we know it.


New Media, Old Problems
Maybe The Register wasn't being too hard on them after all..

So it seems that Wikipedia, a registered charity, had running the finances of its parent corporation a convicted theft, larcenist, check kiter and habitual drunk driver. Seriously.
For more than six months, beginning in January of this year, Wikipedia's million-dollar check book was balanced by a convicted felon.

When Carolyn Bothwell Doran was hired as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Florida-based Wikimedia Foundation, she had a criminal record in three other states - Virginia, Maryland, and Texas - and she was still on parole for a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) hit and run.

Her record also included convictions for passing bad checks, theft, petty larceny, additional DUIs, and unlawfully wounding her boyfriend with a gun shot to the chest.
Haven't these morons ever heard of a background check? At all? Or would that be too anti-democratic?

Source: The Register

Wireless Missile System and Wired Sushi
No, not for the Army -- for your office.

Sadly, without a wireless webcam attached, aiming is going to be tricky. I suppose you could buy your own and put it on the base though. This has definite possibilities.

Source: The Register (Hardware)

This on the other hand is just silly. A USB plug that looks like a piece of sushi.

Hmm, now I want sushi.

Wait though... here's a tomato that looks like the Bat-Signal!

Just like finding Jesus in a slice of toast! Amazing!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fossil Hunting

In Which I Acquire a Giant Monster's Tooth

Today we went browsing into a hippy store on Kirkwood, so that I could see if they had any fossils to purchase. Man, did they ever. Everything from gorgeous giant ammonites to petrified wood to weird snail fossils, even a tiny little trilobite that I now call my own.

But they had a group of something I've never seen before -- Mosasaur teeth.

For the unitiated, Mosasaurs were a family of giant reptiles that lived in the Cretaceous period, toward the end of the dinosaur era. They were true monsters. Basically, imagine a crocodile with flippers, some of which were more than 50 feet long, and you have a Mosasaur. Then add double-hinged snakelike jaws so that they could swallow their prey whole. They ate sharks, amongst other things.

My Mosasaur tooth is broken at the root so you can even see the layers that made it up before it was turned to stone, at least a bit. It's really something and I'll have to put pictures up later.

According to the box, my tooth is from a phosphate mine in Morocco; according to online fossil retailers, that plus its round shape indicates it is most likely a Mosasaurinae Liodon Anceps, which was about 40 feet long and particularly vicious.

Liodon was a large mosasaur with "powerful, highly specialised teeth...probably the most efficient in the Mosasauridae for tearing off chunks of soft bodied prey such as fishes and other marine reptiles...[Liodon] was a formidable predator, the nearest mosasaur analogue to sharks." (Lingham-Soliar 1993).

Length: (estimated) up to 12+ m. (40+ ft.)); skull: 1.2 m. (4 ft.)

Sources: Wikipedia
Buried Treasure Fossiles (for pictures of the mosasaur teeth found in the Moroccan mine that my own came from, apparently) A description of the species that I think mine is from is under 'Liodon Anceps' on this page.

One More Time (News)

Make your decision you know that it's long overdue....

Who Needs Working Fire Systems In a Warzone Anyway?
So the continuing spiral of corruption in constructing our huge (bigger than the Vatican), fortified (yet still in range of Iraqi mortars) compound... err, embassy in Baghdad gets worse every time you look. This time?

It turns out the fire systems, aka sprinklers, detectors and the like... doesn't work. Or to be more precise, since it's not been tested, is likely to catastrophically fail in the event of a fire.

Specifically at issue here are the underground pipes that feed high pressure water into the sprinkler system.. pipes which don't seem up to code.

WASHINGTON — The fire-fighting system in the mammoth new $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is defective, according to documents obtained by McClatchy and U.S. officials, who said that their concerns were ignored or overruled in a rush to declare the complex completed.

"As far as I know, nothing's been fixed," said one State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation for speaking to the news media. "The lives of the people who are working in that building are going to be at stake" if the complex doesn't meet building codes, he said.
What reason could one have for cutting corners on such a huge project on which so many lives will depend, I wonder?
Last month, 19 days before he retired, State Department buildings chief Charles E. Williams certified key elements of the embassy's fire-fighting system as ready for operation, according to the documents McClatchy obtained.

His own fire-safety specialists and an outside consultant, however, had warned Williams and his aides repeatedly about numerous fire safety violations.

Moreover, Williams' thumbs-up was based on tests run by another contractor that was hired, not by the State Department, but by the company building the embassy, First Kuwaiti General Contracting and Trading Co. State Department officials, members of Congress and others have accused First Kuwaiti of shoddy construction and questionable labor practices.

Anyone want to lay odds that he has a financial tie to the contractors? This IS the Bush administration after all.

Source: McClatchy

Reason Enough to Vote For Him, Right Here
Reuters Headline: Corporate elite fear candidate Edwards

Apparently, according to various corporate lobbyists (aka, scum), the big money world is scared to death that Edwards might end up President.

That right there should secure your vote, ladies and gentlemen.

Source: Reuters

WGA Strike Grinds On; Oscars in Doubt
So the Writer's strike is grinding on due to complete intransigence on the part of the owners, despite their ever-mounting losses (now at 1.4 BILLION dollars to the Los Angeles economy), and now it looks like they're going to lose their single biggest PR move of the year -- the Oscars.
No red carpet, no Keira or Angelina, no best-dressed/worst-dressed lists, no goody bags, no limo rides, no parties and no champagne. Tonight's lacklustre Golden Globe awards will sound an alarm across Los Angeles: the show does not go on.

Hollywood is on strike and it is beginning to hurt the city built around the entertainment industry. People are out of work, the local economy is suffering and the biggest blow to both revenue and prestige could be yet to come - the cancellation of the Oscars.
See, the strike already killed the Golden Globes, because the nominees, and good for them on this btw, would not cross a picket line.
Usually one of the most glamorous events in the showbusiness calendar, tonight's Globes at the Beverly Hills Hotel will be reduced to no more than a one-hour press conference in which the winners' names will be read out. The losses incurred by caterers, hairdressers, hotels, jewellers, limousine firms, party planners, stylists and other support workers are estimated at $70-80m.
I actually feel badly for the collateral damage the strike is causing, but we all know who to blame -- the same people who won't share a couple percent of their revenue with the people who write their products.

For shame.

Source: The Guardian

Blackwater Coverup
So immediately after the shooting spree that led to the Iraqi government demanding that the mercenary company be thrown out of the country, Blackwater repaired and painted over all the vehicles involved.

Conveniently destroying all the evidence.

Blackwater SAYS there were lots of bullet holes and damage and such, and can produce unverifiable photographs to prove it -- but the actual cars are now mint.

So, either they were riddled with the enemy fire that most observers believe never existed, in which case Blackwater destroyed their best legal defense, or, in an attempt to obsfuscate their role in a spree killing, they repaired basically intact vehicles, then lied about what repairs they had done.

You can tell which theory I buy into.

Source: Raw Story/AP

Student Rights
Ahh, the University. A place of learning, of reasoned discussion, of disagreement in a civilized atmosphere.

Or failing that, a place where the administration can screw you because they feel like it.
T. Hayden Barnes opposed his university’s plan to build two large parking garages with $30 million from students’ mandatory fees. So last spring, he did what any student activist would do: He posted fliers criticizing the plan, wrote mass e-mails to students, sent letters to administrators and wrote a letter to the editor of the campus newspaper. While that kind of campaign might be enough to annoy university officials, Barnes never thought it would get him expelled.


Rather than ignore him or set up a meeting with concerned students, Valdosta State University, in Georgia, informed Barnes, then a sophomore, that he had been “administratively withdrawn” effective May 7, 2007. In a letter apparently slipped under his dorm room door, Ronald Zaccari, the university’s president, wrote that he “present[ed] a clear and present danger to this campus” and referred to the “attached threatening document,” a printout of an image from an album on Barnes’s Facebook profile. The collage featured a picture of a parking garage, a photo of Zaccari, a bulldozer, the words “No Blood for Oil” and the title “S.A.V.E.-Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage,” a reference to a campus environmental group and Barnes’s contention that the president sought to make the structures part of his legacy at the university.


As additional evidence of the threat posed by Barnes, the document referred to a link he posted to his Facebook profile whose accompanying graphic read: “Shoot it. Upload it. Get famous. Project Spotlight is searching for the next big thing. Are you it?” It doesn’t mention that Project Spotlight was an online digital video contest and that “shoot” in that context meant “record.” The appeal also mentions that Barnes’s profile stated, at one point, that he was “cleaning out and rearranging his room and thus, his mind, or so he hopes.”
I'm not entirely sure where oil comes into it, mind you, but, yeah, not a huge threat here.
The letter also said that in order to return as a student, a non-university psychiatrist would have to certify that Barnes was not a threat to himself or anyone else, and that he would receive “on-going therapy.” After he appealed, with endorsements from a psychiatrist and a professor, the Georgia Board of Regents “didn’t do the right thing and reverse the expulsion,” said William Creeley, a senior program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit organization that defends students’ free expression rights and helped Barnes secure legal counsel.
Oh-ho, the changing goalposts defense! My how I love that one.

So his grand total of offenses runs: he made a collage, he had a link on his page to a photography contest, and he was cleaning his room to relax.



Source: Inside Higher Ed

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dodd Wins! We All Win!

The Wall-Street Journal is moaning that Telecom Immunity is off the table -- for good!

In what is surely the biggest legislative victory for the blogosphere ever, it now seems that there won't be any new FISA bill as long as Bush is in office. Check out the Wall Street Journal's whining:

Senator Chris Dodd's Presidential campaign died with a whimper in Iowa. But he still seems to be dictating national security policy to fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill, and unless the Bush Administration is willing to fight, perhaps to the next President too.

We're told that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is saying privately he now won't attempt to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on the wiretapping of al Qaeda suspects. Instead, he'll merely support another 18-month extension of the six-month-old Protect America Act. Among other problems, the temporary bill includes no retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that cooperated with the feds after 9/11.
Suck on that, AT&T!

Source: OpenLeft

Tase the World

Edison Would Be So Proud

Our Electrified World

First, a bit of light tech news out of the Consumer Electronics Show, because you wouldn't want to have to kill and torture helpless people without a soundtrack.

Today at CES, Taser International introduced the Taser MPH -- the first combination hand-held music player and Taser.

The player, which has a 1-GB capacity that can hold about 150 songs, is embedded in a holster that slips on your belt. Feel the need to zap someone and you can unholster the Taser, use the built-in laser pointer to aim, and blam -- a couple of darts carrying 50,000 volts hits your victim.

And you don't have to miss a beat.
Guffaw, guffaw, don't have to miss a beat. Hilarious.

Not like these things have any negative consequenc--what's that?
A man in his 20s died after a Coral Gables police officer used a Taser stun gun to subdue him Friday morning.


Miami-Dade police said Jones displayed ''aggressive and combative behavior'' so a police officer used a Taser stun gun to restrain him.

After the discharge, Jones became unresponsive, and paramedics took him to Doctor's Hospital in Coral Gables, where he was pronounced dead.
What about something with a little 'local flavor'?
After an ambulance had been dispatched to Borden's Bedford home last Nov. 6, he was transported to the jail for violating house arrest. Borden was disabled and a diabetic. While in the jail, he was observed talking to inanimate objects.

In trying to subdue Borden, as he lay handcuffed on the floor, jailers shocked him three times with a Taser, which delivers a 50,000-volt shock. Borden's pants were around his ankles at the time he was shocked.

The county coroner ruled Borden's death a heart attack brought on by electric shock, an enlarged heart and pharmaceutical drugs in his body.
Ah, the highlights of our own local Bloomington police using tasers. In that case, they took a mentally ill man with an enlarged heart out of the back of an ambulance and then tasered him to death. "Oops."

But surely that's an isolated incident, and the police don't routinely use tasers to torture or dominate people... oh geez.
But, Andrews points out, using the TASER to bring down a threatening suspect isn't always the way the gun is used.

In Glendale, Colo., Glen Leyba was on his apartment floor, thrashing violently. A police officer, hoping to control him, stunned him three times, before he died. While the coroner blamed a drug overdose, the family blames multiple, unnecessary electric shocks, Andrews reports.

Shelly Leyba, Glen's sister, says, "Glen was in a medical emergency, down on the ground, no threat."


On Long Island, David Glowczenski was suffering a mental breakdown, so his family called police for help.

His sister, Jean Griffin, says, "We called them for safety because he was disoriented. …And an hour later he was dead."

Glowzenski died after a confrontation in which an officer stunned him nine times with a TASER, and he wasn't on drugs or alcohol, Andrews notes. "He committed no crime; he didn't do anything wrong," Griffin says.

I'm not even going to go into the whole 'Don't Tase Me Bro' thing, where a peaceful political event was turned into a ghoulish freakshow as a student who simply asked one too many questions was himself put to the question, so to speak, by overzealous cops.

Despite the speaker he was interrogating asking him to be allowed to finish.


Americans have a fascination with military technology. We, as Jon Stewart said this week on A Daily Show in his GW voice, 'love the boomy-boomy'.

It's one of our greatest failings that we believe not only that we CAN solve almost any problem with the application of grotesque amounts of force, but that we're right to do so; more than justified, *called* to put the world to order at the end of a gun, the blast of a thermobaric bomb, or the barbs of a Taser.

Look folks, here's how this works. A taser sends 50,000 volts down two long fires with barbed fishooks at the end, which puncture the victim's skin and pump about 1000+ volts of that into their nervous system. Waves of excruciating pain and paralysis pass through them, and they fall to the ground.

That's if all goes according to plan. Often, the police then proceed to Taser them. Again. And again. And again.

Then, perhaps, they die. But so what if they don't?

Lately we've seen a lot of argument about these new, meticulously designed torture methods, Tasers, waterboarding, and the like, that don't kill, at least most of the time, because of precise engineering. If they live, the Conservatives ask, what's the harm?

We no longer live in a world where it's crazy to ask if you can torture someone as long as they live.

This substitution of precise bio-physical engineering for ethics is happening across the entire spectrum of US executive power. The Army is developing their so-called 'Agony Ray', a microwave gun that heats the nerves in your skin so that you feel like you're on fire. They can blast an entire crowd of people at once with this, and there's only a SLIGHT risk that it will boil your eyeballs and blind you. Which makes it ok.

The CIA has famously been deploying waterboarding, but they have many other nasty tools, often engineered at one point or another by our lovely German friends, to wrack the body and mind. The 20th Century didn't just see advances in guns and planes and cannon, it also saw a quantum leap in inquisitions.

Of course, in a move that would have pinhead Thomas Friedman giddy with glee, we're outsourcing much of these torture sessions overseas. Cuts down on overhead, what without courts, lawyers, or civil rights getting in the way of the bottom line.
The book opens with a description of the basement of the Syrian secret police's "Palestine Branch" interrogation centre. It is called "The Grave"thanks to its coffin-like cells. with barely enough room to lie down.

The torture masters here employ a device called the "German chair", an empty metal frame used to stretch a prisoner's spine to near breaking point. Moroccan jailers allegedly used a scalpel to cut the genitals off Ethiopian student Binyam Mohamed. While incarcerated in Cairo, Mamdouh Habib was placed in a cell which filled with water until it reached his neck. Egyptian Abu Omar became incontinent after he was hung upside down and given electric shocks to his genitals. Worse still, there is evidence that some prisoners in Uzbekistan were boiled alive.

In this way, the US outsourced torture and gained intelligence through extreme methods its own agents were not able to use.
So it goes, as we indulge our bloodlust without getting our hands dirty, ever looking for the neater, cleaner, faster, whizzier way to induce human suffering. Whether it's handing our victims off to third world shops to do it in our name or using high technology to hide the scars of our work, the end result is the same. We have become a nation of torturers, sophisticated and cynical, unwilling to even sully ourselves while brutalizing others.

Finally, on the Taser front, Amnesty International, noting that more than 200 people have died after being Tasered, has called on the device to be severely restricted in use, treating it more like a gun than a fist. Ideally of course, it would be recalled entirely.

Instead, the Taser people are bundling mp3 players inside, so you can listen to your favorite songs while you protect the public from themselves and their freedom.

God Bless America.

Sources: The LA Times
Miami Herald
The Bloomington Alternative
CBS News
Amnesty International
The Courier-Mail